Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Education: March 2010

FHSU Visits Oxford Mississippi

HAYS, Kan. - After seeing the pictures on their walls and talking to each individual, I was not surprised that Brad Will and Brenda Craven should team up to chaperon an English department trip. Students in Will's course Faulkner and the Literary South traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, during the fall 2009 semester. Both Will and Craven are lively and engaging members of the Fort Hays State University faculty. Will is clearly a Star Wars enthusiast, based on the adventurous posters in his office -- in fact, he edits Star Wars manuals. I first met Craven when I was welcomed into her office, and my eyes were captured by the enormous canvas that engulfed her plain-white wall with bright ranges of reds and oranges, much like her vivid personality.

Kansas Children Are Above Average

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Every child in America deserves an equal chance in life. The best way for every child to receive an equal chance in life is an adequate education. For our children to be equal, they must be given the same skills and resources to prosper in life. Not just for themselves, for the state and community they live in. My Father would always tell me, "An education is something no one can take away from you, no matter what happens. Everything you own may be taken, but you have knowledge and thought on your side."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Kansas Senate Majority Leader Steve Morris (R-Hugoton) favors a tax increase. So why would a Republican in Western Kansas -- the most Republican area in the state -- want to raise taxes?

Because he's smart. Because Senator Morris cares more about the future of rural Kansas than his own political future. Because he knows that those suffering most from the draconian state budget cuts are those in rural Kansas. But maybe Senator Morris is smart like a fox, and knows the heart of Western Kansas. I suspect he does.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Here in Lawrence, we just came through a dramatic and upsetting round of school funding cuts that effectively divided our community. There were threats of some--or several--of our grade schools being closed and things got ugly as parents turned on each other. When parents of children in threatened schools rallied, some parents of children whose schools were not on the chopping block were concerned that their schools would lose teachers, librarians, nurses, paras, etc. in order to save smaller, older grade schools. (What they didn't seem to take into consideration was that class sizes were going to go up regardless, because all those kids from closed schools were going to have to flood the remaining schools.)

TOPEKA, Kan. - On March 16, a crowd estimated to be 1,000 parents, teachers and students rallied at the east steps of Capitol in Topeka to protest potential future cuts in education funding. Demanding that schools get "what's right, not what's left," and "SOS - save our schools," the crowd's chants echoed in down the halls of the Capitol. Photobucket
AYF rally particpants

Following the Montoy lawsuit in 2005, funding levels substantially improved educational results and programs across the state. Kansas children were learning more, were achieving high academic standards and graduating from high school ready to contribute to our state.

Still the funding never reached the levels ascribed in the Kansas Legislature's own cost study (2001 Augenblick and Myers). This study found that funding needed for Kansas schools - now nine years ago - ranged from $5,811 per pupil (large districts) to $8,541 per pupil (small districts); with additional costs for: special education: $7,400-$12,000 per pupil; at-risk: $1,900-$2,600 per pupil; English Language Learner (ELL): $1,200 to $6,000 per pupil. In order to be a "Successful School," the average base cost of $4,547 per pupil was proposed.

"We want what's right, not what's left."

TOPEKA, Kan. - The above is the motto of a grassroots groups calling itself Adequate Yearly Funding. This group is organizing a rally to support education in Topeka on Tuesday, March 16. Everyone, educators, teachers, students, grandmothers, grandfathers, and other interested citizens, are welcome to join this rally.

Why should people rally for education? All one has to do is read the local newspaper or watch the local TV news to know what funding cuts will mean for Kansas schools and the students who attend them. According to an article in the March 7, 2010, issue of the Wichita Eagle, "Senate Republican leaders [have] outlined plans to push for $300 million in tax increases to help close a $450 million budget gap for the 2011 budget." (Parkinson cuts roads funding to fix budget) Tax-wary legislators need citizen support in order to follow through with these tax increases.

MOUND CITY, Kan. - In 2002, Tom Holland said that he ran to represent his neighbors in the Kansas House of Representatives, "because our schools were facing severe funding shortages."

He explained, "Year after year, I watched my kids' classroom sizes get bigger and important programs being cut. I knew how to solve problems for businesses, and when I saw the problems facing my kids' schools, I decided to lead. I set out to share my vision with other Kansans. The critics said I had no chance. But, I went on to beat the established candidate, a four-term incumbent, and the chair of the House Education Committee."

Living in Kansas full-time, Holland raised four children: Thomas, a Kansas University graduate; Derek, a Baker University graduate; Brandon, a Kansas University junior; and Louisa, a South Junior High eighth grader. All four attended Lawrence schools during a tumultuous time when public schools faced severe funding shortages.

We Deserve Better

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - At a recent legislative forum Reno County Representative Mike O'Neal told the audience they were blaming the wrong people for cuts in education. He claimed it was the local school boards spending too much on non-classroom items that was at fault.

He certainly left me with the impression that it was high administrative costs that were the problem.

I was outraged. How could our school boards be doing this in a time of economic crisis?

Armed with righteous indignation I confronted area school superintendents. What I found was not what I expected. What Mr. O'Neal had called wasteful administrative spending seemed pretty essential to me.

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